Pectin plus fish gelatin could lead to cheaper low-fat spreads: study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Pectin could be the ideal partner for gelatin in the production of low-cost, low-fat spreads, according to a new study from Malaysia.

Researchers from Universiti Sains Malaysia claim that the pectin could reduce the cost of the low-fat spreads, heavily reliant on gelatin as the protein source.

“To the best of our knowledge, this has not been studied elsewhere and we believe that the information of the characteristics of such a blend system is important to justify its potential use in low-fat spread and other food applications,”​ wrote the researchers in the journal Food Hydrocolloids​.

Fat reduction is one of the main ways in which manufacturers are seeking to make products attractive to consumers who have health high up on their shopping lists. However as with salt and sugar reduction, this poses a problem for formulators since reduced fat can impair taste - and no matter what their healthy intentions poor taste is enough to turn consumers off a product.

Formulation details

According to background information in the article, low-fat spreads are formulated with four types of ingredients: a gelling agent, a viscosifying agent, a phase separating agent, and a synergistic agent.

“These were reported to be important in playing a role to prevent emulsion breakdown and to give better flavour release in the mouth as well as to inhibit syneresis,”​ stated the researchers.

Gelatin is being used due to its strong emulsifying and foaming abilities.

“However, owing to the relatively high cost of gelatin, alternative ingredient to replace part and parcel of the amount of gelatin use has been sought after,”

“Pectin, an economic thickening and gelling agent that has recently been found to show emulsifying properties in an oil-in-water (O/W) emulsion could be a promising replacer for gelatin.”


The researchers prepared low-fat spreads using different fish gelatin to pectin ratios of 3:0, 2:1, 1:1, and 1:2.

The last ratio of fish gelatin to pectin was found to be the best formulation, with a fast meltdown (“melt in the mouth”​) property being recorded. This is associated with flavour release, said the researchers, and a greater instant in-mouth flavour release effect.

When the researchers prepared spreads with high acidity (pH 3), the stability of the spread was adversely affected, they said. This could be remedied by adding sodium chloride.

Source: Food Hydrocolloids​Volume 22, Issue 8, Pages 1637-1640“Using fish gelatin and pectin to make a low-fat spread”​Authors: L.H. Cheng, B.L. Lim, K.H. Chow, S.M. Chong, Y.C. Chang

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